(ORDO NEWS) — A year ago, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) adopted an agreement that delayed the start of deep ocean mining by two years.
In July 2023, the deadline will expire: it is expected that by that time regulatory acts will be created and humanity will begin to use a new source of raw materials on the ocean floor under international waters.
Nauru is a dwarf state with an area of only 21 square kilometers (the third from the end in the world list) and a population of 11.5 thousand people. It is located northeast of Australia and is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.
It is in the central regions of the largest and deepest of the earth’s oceans that a number of deep-water deposits are being explored (including the province of Clarion-Clipperton). The only exception is a field in the Indian Ocean.
On June 25, 2021, the Nauru authorities appealed to the International Seabed Authority (ISA), an intergovernmental organization created by the UN.
Acting on the basis of Section 1 (15) of the founding Agreement of this organization of 1994, Nauru initiated the creation of a document that entered into force on July 9 last year.
In fact, the island-based mining company Nauru Ocean Resources Inc. (NORI) asks for approval of the work plan for the use of ores on the ocean floor under the Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and provides the necessary funds for this.
In July 2021, an agreement appeared, called the “two-year rule”. The document gave ISA two years to complete the preparation and adoption of international acts that will regulate the use of a new source of raw materials.
In July 2023, the term will come to an end – and this will surely greatly change the state of affairs in the market, primarily the market for polymetallic ores, which are rich in the still hard-to-reach bottom of the ocean floor, from where copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese and other metals can be extracted.
So, by July 9 next year, there should be a set of rules governing the exploration and extraction of minerals under international waters – that vast area of the World Ocean that does not belong to any of the states.
If the document does not appear by this date, its approximate draft will be considered and receive “preliminary approval”.
Some such acts have already been adopted: in 2000, ISA regulated the use of polymetallic nodules, in 2010 – polymetallic sulfides, and in 2012 – cobalt-rich iron-manganese crusts.
As of January 1, 2022, ISA has signed 31 exploration contracts, but has not yet considered production applications.
One important reason, according to Pradeep Singh, who describes the possible consequences of using a new type of raw material in a scientific publication, is “the incompleteness of the process of creating acts that facilitate the exploration of minerals.”
It is planned to raise raw materials to the surface either using a kind of conveyor or a hydraulic pump. Robotic devices should take part in the process.
However, the initiative to mine deep-sea minerals is met with objections. They are primarily of an ecological nature: recently unique communities of benthic animals have been discovered on bottom areas rich in underwater raw materials.
Among them is the pompom-like polychaete worm Biremis sp. , the so-called gelatinous squirrels (peculiar sea cucumbers of the genus Psychropotes ) and many newly described species.
The concern concerns not only the safety of the benthic fauna, but also its significance for the Earth’s biosphere as a whole, because the study of the ecological relationships of these ecosystems is just beginning.
Among other things, the author emphasizes the importance of the transfer of mineral raw materials to the joint use of all mankind, which requires competent legislative framework and control over their implementation.
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